31 October 2023

The Pontiff and the Painter and Parta humano generi

As he composed his teaching document for October in the year 1901, Pope Leo XIII clearly felt that something had been achieved. After a pontificate in which he had each year issued a document encouraging the use of the Holy Rosary, in preparation annually for the Rosary month of October, "grato et iucundo perfundimur consolationis sensu"! His Holiness had a feeling, in September 1901, that the Rosary was, indeed, being used more and more.

And Leo XIII had objective evidence for this feeling. The Bishop of Tarbes, which had Lourdes within its boundaries, was creating a great Rosary Basilica in which each of the Fifteen Mysteries was to have an altar in its honour. 

Pope Leo was a clever and an able man. And a man of charm. The moment at which, in his nineties, he writes Parta humano generi is almost exactly the time when Philip de Laszlo painted the spectacular 'Budapest' portrait of the pontiff, which was such a triumph when it visited London in 2004: the quietly gracious smile; the long fingers in thoughtful repose; the penetrating black eyes. (It was to be awarded the Grand Gold Medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900.) De Laszlo records some of the topics about which the Pontiff discoursed during the sittings: " a great variety of subjects: political, religious, social, artistic and scientific questions, and also about Hungary ... I can say I have never met a man whose innermost feelings were revealed so expressively, and who would be more deserving a model to be studied by an artist."

How much more fortunate are some epochs, in their Roman Pontiffs, than others are!

Surely, we must sympathise with the Pope Leo's enthusiastic engagement with the Most Holy Rosary. Anybody, but especially those of us brought up on the magic of Fr Hope Patten's Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, which also possessed its fifeen altars for its fifteen mysteries, must feel our loss of the Rosary orientation in the present Catholic set-up. If that great barn of a 'Chapel of Reconciliation' were to be broken up by, perhaps, the insertion of internal screens, a design providing places for Fifteen Altars for fifteen simultaneous private Masses offered by fifteen priests, would not be beyond the wit of man, or of woman.

Pope Leo rejoiced, in 1901, that there were so many more Rosary sodalities, so much more Marian piety. But there were clouds, he reveals, even on his horizon. In the Pyrenaean passes where S Dominic had set the 'prima incunabula sancti Rosarii', there is a new ... Albigensian heresy! A 'Perniciosa lues [contagious disease]'. It has simply changed its name! "serpitque iterum per eas regiones" Yes; 'serpit' does mean what it sounds like! This new Albigensian heresy 'infects with the foulness of contagion and contaminates Christian peoples, dragging them to wretched disaster'. Surely, he feels, our Lady will smash, cut off, the multiple necks of the wicked hydra [remember that Leo XIII, Papa Pecci, was a classicist; author of Office hymns including O lux; Sacra iam.] which was prowling round all of Europe ...

Whom did Pope Leo, in the year 1901, have in mind? Was there really a revival of Albigensianism? Or did he mean Modernism? Or did he have in mind the laicite of his contemporary France (he mentions the persecution of the religious orders)? 

For us in our own time, it is not difficult to fill in such gaps. In modern European Society, we have so many Hydra's Heads ... of transgenderism and of self-devised identies and of sexual promiscuity and so much else ... actually encouraged. Within the Church herself, there are the sick and sickly disorders of Bergoglianism.

Here be Hydras-a-plenty! Surely, part of the answer should be Rosaries-a-plenty! The incisive blade of the Sharp Lady who "cunctas haereses sola interimit in universo mundo" ... that's what the Rosary truly is!

30 October 2023


 Until the Wreckovation of the Roman rite, tomorrow, of course, was the Vigil of All the Saints ... or of all the Hallows, if your idiolect is even older. Or Hallow E'en for the real archaisers among you. It still is, of course, in the Book of Common Prayer. (I have, incidentally, used this passage previously. But the rest of this post is pretty virgin stuff.)

In what follows, Mr Vincent is a college tutor hosting a breakfast; I do not think he was sympathetic to the Ritualist Movement ... He is trying to be funny, but JHN is also, I suspect, making the point that all those admirably 'Catholic' directions in the Prayer Book, to which the Ritualists delightedly pointed, had become obsolete.

"At this moment the door opened, and in came the manciple with the dinner paper, which Mr Vincent had formally to run his eye over. 'Watkins,' he said, giving it back to him, 'I almost think today is one of the Fasts of the Church. Go and look, Watkins, and bring me word.' The astonished manciple, who had never been sent on such a commission in his whole career before, hastened out of the room, to task his wits how best to fulfil it. The question seemed to strike the company [of undergraduates] as forcibly, for there was a sudden silence, which was succeeded by a shuffling of feet and leave-taking; as if, though they had secured their ham and mutton at breakfast, they did not like to risk their dinner. Watkins returned sooner than could have been expected. He said that Mr Vincent was right; today was 'the feast of the Apostles'. 'The Vigil of St. Peter, you mean, Watkins,' said Mr Vincent; 'I thought so. Then let us have a plain beef steak and a saddle of mutton; no Portugal onions, or current jelly; and some simple pudding, Charlotte pudding, Watkins - that will do.'"

I don't propose to tell you all about the all-night vigils of the ante-nicene Church: I want to make some observations simply about what has been the situation in our own liturgical culture and its more immediate background. So I will quote, next, from the sound old manual Liturgy and Worship, because it dates from 1932 ... almost our own day! 

" ... in the West, vigils developed into a fast kept on the day before certain feasts. In the Roman and Sarum kalendars the vigil-fasts are those before Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Epiphany, St. Matthias, St. John Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul, St. James, St Laurence, the Assumption, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon and St. Jude (not Sarum), All Saints, St. Andrew and St Thomas. Late editions of the Sarum Kalendar add Annunciation, Nativity of St. Mary, Michaelmas and (perhaps) Circumcision ... the present Roman regulations ... in England and Wales ... [are] the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints and Christmas ..."

I wish to make two suggestions. 

(1) I think we should restore the liturgical provisions for the days which precede the celebrations on that Sarum list. I AM NOT SUGGESTING, NECESSARILY, THE DIETARY ARRANGEMENTS. Just the propers as printed in Breviaries and Missals up to the time of Pius XII. 

(2) The restoration of the First Vespers, First Evensongs, at least of what used to be called First class or Second Class Doubles, Greater Doubles: and are now called "Festa".

Six and a half decades as a 'professional' liturgical worshipper have convinced me that it is bad psychology suddenly, with no preparation, to spring liturgical goodies on people. The Purple vestments of Vigil Masses, the suppression of Gloria in excelsis, the introduction of appropriate themes into the texts of the rite, seem to me essential. That's why I desire the restoration of the 'old' Vigils. 

And the same logic points to the restoration of First Vespers.

29 October 2023

Neapolis in Cornubia, and the Elimination of Christendom

Sir Keir, leader of the party which currently looks likely to win the next General Election here in Blighty, has announced an ambitious plan of building 'new towns', so as to meet our housing shortage.

This could have interesting consequences. When Pam and I used to drive back from the West Country, we often passed a place called Poundbury. It looks for all the world like a diverse, organically evolved community. Most strikingly, it does not consist of stand-alone suburban units of accommodation, each surrounded by its twee and distancing 'garden'. On the contrary: as in older communities, houses adjoin each other; roads are curved within an irregular plan; building styles differ.

Poundbury is quite new; it was inspired by our present head of state (when he was 'Prince of Wales'), and designed specifically to look 'unmodern'; 'undesigned'; irregular and ... yes ... organic.

When just before the Pandemic we were last in Cornwall, near Newquay [let the reader understand], we found ourselves turning a corner in our car and there, facing us, was ... an Art Deco architectural complex the existence of which we had been totally unaware. 

The reason for our unawareness, of course, was that it was built, not in 1932, but in the 2010s.

Another initiative of Prince Charles.

New Towns could easily be great fun, both for those designing and building them, and those discovering them. An essential precondition for such enjoyment is going to have to be that the Developer doesn't shave every penny of expenditure off his creation. In my childhood, I lived near Frinton, where there was a comparatively small development, 1935, exemplifying all the styles of the Thirties, called 'Park Estate' (not even noticed by Pevsner).

Best known, of course, is the old 'Regency' New Town of Brighton. It was built to a formula, enabling pragmatic expansion and adaptation resulting in  Pevsner's judgement "the terraces of Brighton are on the coarse side, impressive to the hoi polloi [sic] rather than the connoisseur". I am deliriously happy to be one of the polloi. Brighton has grandeur ... and there is wit; consider such a hallmark detail as the 'ammonite' adaptation of the Ionic Capital, introduced by ... Amon Wilds! Visit Brighton and go round and spot them!

And another thing: Brighton's churches are fabulous ... agmen ducit Saint Bartholomew's, which must be one of the half-dozen most remarkable parish churches anywhere in the world. It has the second highest nave in Europe; one priest wrote "It was an unfailing joy to celebrate the High Mass beneath the great red and green baldachino ... The sheer scale of St Bart's was born in upon one when, having sung the Dominus vobiscum from the altar, one waited for several seconds for the response to come from what seemed to be the far side of the horizon but was in fact the choir high in the great gallery."

But each of Prince Charles's two 'royal' neapoleis has this oddity: that neither, I think, has a Church or chapel. 

Did you ever see an old, or an organically-evolved community which had no place of worship? And Prince Charles, Fidei Defensor, was ... is? ... Patron of the "The Prayer Book Society".

Realpolitik, of course, imposes its own constraints. At a time when most ecclesial communities are agonising about what to do with thousands of buildings which nobody wants to go and worship in, adding new ones to the list would need a fair bit of justification. But all the same ... such an absence is a massive inauthenticity; a sweet little chapel could surely ... where there's a will, there's a way ... have been tucked in somewhere. This scrapping of fifteen Christian centuries from our cultural history reminds me of when They tried to impose a 'European Constitution' which leapfrogged straight from Horrid Hadrian to Nasty Napoleon.

I feel a bit the same at Waddesdon. A fine Renaissance French Chateau, in Buckinghamshire, packed full of goodies ... but no chapel. The reason, of course, is that Waddesdon was built and furnished by a member of the extensive, immensely wealthy, Jewish, Rothschild family (time was, when that part of Buckinghamshire was known as Rothschildshire). It is fair to make an allowance.

Better, certainly, chapel-less Waddesdon than nearby Blenheim Palace, which does have a chapel of sorts. But that building is little other than another showcase for a big bit of Rysbrack, and  a soul-less mausoleum for Johnny Churchill, "First Duke of Marlborough", a shameless traitor who turned against his king, sided with invaders, and got the palace as his reward. A few years ago, this 'chapel' was the venue for a display of indecent 'art'.

If I have to choose between a Jewish banker with superb artistic taste, and a venal English Traitor, I know where my preference lies. 

My pen has wandered. But the whole concept of a New Town is, surely, like it or not, exciting, and its challenges intriguing? What do you think?

28 October 2023

Stylometricality (2)

Of course, a lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges since 1986. Kenny might well not still subscribe to everything he wrote in the 1980s; advances in computer studies might have damaged his methodology or his conclusions. But I do vividly remember the unwillingness of 'experts' decades ago even to consider Kenny's conclusions. One such expert was still using the arguments, two decades older than those of Kenny, to dismiss the authenticity of certain New Testament texts. I lent him my copy of Kenny ... when he shamefacedly returned it to me, it was quite clear that he had not read it. When a man has spent an academic career integrating certain assumptions into his thinking, writing, and teaching, it becomes extraordinarily difficult for him to break free from ... to concede, even to himself, the dodginess of  ... what he has assumed. That, essentially, was the fate of Kenny's Study. For much of the academic 'New Testament' establishment, the essential inauthenticity of most of the documents they handle is pretty well a Doctrine of Faith.

Kenny's thesis was not fundametalist; he concluded that the 'Epistle to Titus' was not by the same author as the rest of the Pauline Corpus. The importance of Kenny's thesis was that he was open to evidence; he did not need to reach certain conclusions. He had, long since, ceased to preach or to teach Catholic doctrine!

A final detail, which may intrigue some readers.

What about the 'Letter to the Hebrews'?

Here are Kenny's words: "I have expressed no opinion on the relationship of the Epistle to the Hebrews to the Apostle Paul. I have excluded it from the Pauline corpus simply on the grounds that it does not present itself as being Paul's in the way that the other Epistles do. I was in fact interested to note--as the reader no doubt will have done--the surprising number of features in which it resembles the Pauline corpus. Whether this is to be attributed to Pauline authorship or influence, or something called 'epistolary genre', I express no opinion."

When Kenny refers to "the reader", he is referring to those who have carefully perused the many copious tables in A Study, in which he gives the statistical basis of his analyses of the New Testament writings. There are, indeed, pieces of evidence in those tables which might very well cause a certain unease in the mind of students who may have started off with the standard assumptions concerning the authorship of Hebrews.

Kenny was not the first writer to be less than comfortably convinced that Hebrews is unPauline, As early as 1957, Dr W C Wake had pointed out that its final chapter is remarkably like the ending of a Pauline letter.

We simply do not know the varied circumstances which led to the genesis of each of the New Testament documents. Wise Virgins will, in my view, steer clear of dreaming up their own theories and then insisting that these constructions possess the certainties of eternal Dogma. 

But a gentle, civilised agnosticism on certain historical details is not the sort of thing which a doctoral thesis needs.


27 October 2023


 In the collect for today, Friday, Vigil of Ss Simon and Jude, the verb praevenire is used in two different ways. Should we view this as stylish?

Stylometricality (1)

 A few days ago, one of the Catholic papers had a brief article by Dr Anthony Kenny. I found this interesting because of who Kenny is; and because of a book of his own to which he referred. 

Kenny is a lapsed Catholic priest, regarded as one of England's finest philosophical minds. He was Master of Balliol College Oxford, when one of our daughters was an undergraduate there. He chaired a memorable debate between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr Dawkins. Unlike many of those who leave the Church or her ministry, he has no hostility towards the Church or the Christian tradition. 

The book he published in 1986, A Stylometric Study of the New Testament, employed modern computer-generated methods to investigate whether certain of the books of the New Testament really are by their ostensible or claimed authors. 

There is background here.

We all, in whatever language we express ourselves, have a certain 'linguistic fingerprint' which can be discerned whatever the subject, content and direction is in the things we write. Elements such as sentence length and structure and the sort of words we use ... and how we use them ... can be analysed. This study is called Stylometry.

In 1966, a writer called A Q Morton had argued on stylometric grounds that most of the so-called letters of S Paul were not written by him. The broader thrust of this assertion implied that certain letters upon which Protestantism is (although erroneously) based are the authentic core of S Paul's teaching; others, more markedly 'Catholic' such as Colossians and Ephesians and the 'Pastoral Epistles', are inauthentic, and might come from as many as six different hands. (Such an approach, of course, fails to take account of those letters which describe themselves as written by S Paul in conjunction with colleagues ... or the influence of secretaries whose own style might have had an effect upon what S Paul dictated to them ... etc.etc..)

Kenny's Study, on the other hand, claimed to show that, despite Morton, "There is no support given ... to the idea that a single group of Epistles (say the four major Tuebingen Epistles) stand out as uniquely comfortable with one another; or that a single group (such as the Pastoral Epistles) stand out as uniquely diverse from the surrounding context. 2 Timothy, one of the commonly rejected Pastoral Epistles, is as near the centre of the constellation as 2 Corinthians, which belongs to the group most widely accepted as authentic ... on the basis of the evidence ... for my part I see no reason to reject the hypothesis that twelve of the Pauline Epistles are the work of a single, unusually versatile author."

Kenny's brief recent article in the popular Catholic press is mainly about the Acts of the Apostles; in it, he accepts that its authorship is the same as that of the Gospel according to S Luke. 

And he includes in his evidence for this assertion 'Stylometric evidence'.

Kenny is now 92 years old; it is interesting and significant that he still is willing to appear in print as the author of the arguments he deployed in the 1980s.

To be concluded. 

26 October 2023

The Four presentations of "Saint" Alfred the Great

As far as I can make out, the first presentation of King Alfred as one of the greatest-ever Englishman was in the time of King Henry VI; a time when, under royal auspices, royal models of kingship were very much the intellectual fashion.

The second such period was the Victorian era, when Englishmen became passionate about reclaiming England's glorious First Millennium history (perhaps it was distant enough no longer to be dangerous). Think of the numbers of Victorians ... mostly bewhiskered ... who had this monnikker ... 

The third such period? In 1928, the Church of England added Alfred to the list of saints which could be observed, assigning him October 26. So that made it official ... "S Alfred King and Confessor" ... except that it didn't really, because Parliament (fortunately) refused to pass the Revised 1928 Prayer Book.

Unofficially and illegally, that "Alterntive Calendar (1928)" continued to be used and printed just as if it had been authorised. Interestingly, the C of E  did not take the opportunity to render King Alfred ... and his sanctitas ... honest in the Alternative Service Book of 1980. Juridical Legality had to await the authorisation of The Christian Year in 1997.

I have, on my library shelves, a fourth presentation of "St" Alfred, in the form of an Ordo of the English Roman Catholic Diocese of Northampton, dated 2002. It includes him on his Anglican date; quite what the ecclesiological significance of this de facto canonisation may be, I leave to the amused speculation of readers.

Please, no angry expostulations.


My suspicion is that the lesson here concerns the unreality of the modern Nation State. Frantic for meaning, citizens, politicians, and Media Persons reach out for concepts and individuals to exemplify what seems to them the sense of the 'country' they think they belong to.

Moi, I identify simply as a Latin Catholic. This is just as well, since there isn't much else I could claim to be.

25 October 2023

Pole at Lambeth

They've got an Exhibition at Lambeth Palace about Reginald Cardinal Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury There is one particular, immensely eloquent volume, which has set me wondering if it is in this Exhibition. (The state of my health means that I have no possibility of going to see.)

Let me explain.

Some years ago, I was in Bodley leisurely following one of my heroes, the magnificent John Grandisson, Bishop (1328-1369) of Exeter. I had in my hands a Vita by him about S Thomas Becket, which I found quite a revelation. King Henry, I discovered, imposed the most horrific penalties ... deaths, blindings and maimings ... upon anybody doing such a thing as conveying a papal bull into this kingdom. King Henry (I mean, Henry II) was set upon sundering the Unity of Christendom by dealing with imperially-nominated antipopes.

Not being a historian, I had had some vague idea that Becket stood up to Henry II in defense of the principles surrounding investiture ... and such stuff. That half hour in Bodley deciphering (I am not a historian!!) C14 script helped me to understand still better the degree to which I and my generation were fed a diet of The History of England Rendered Gentlemanly. But another surprise lay before me.

For no particular reason, before strolling off for a leisurely break, I turned to the beginning of the book. In doing so, I found I had moved from the Mediaeval world, its crabbed script and its distant preoccupations, into the purest Renaissance. A previous owner had written his name, in an elegant Italian script:

Reginaldus Pole

Click click click ... you can imagine the connections which instantly formed in my mind. The parallels between the two iniquitous Kings Henry. Pole's own martyred Mother, Blessed Margaret. The courage of the Cornish and Devonish peasantry in 1549, demanding that the Lord Cardinal Pole be brought back to England and made the First in the Council of little Edward VI "because he is of the King's Blood" ... how the 'Uncles', the seedy and murderous 'Lords of the Council', must have trembled at that idea! (I wonder if a copy of the demands of the 1549 'rebels' is in the Exhibition.)

In the months after the erection of the Ordinariate, I recall a dear friend, Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, saying to me how privileged we were going to be to enter into the inheritance of the Martyres Duacenses. How right he was; and his words were among the very few uttered in my hearing during that period which I consider worth remembering. The names of the English Martyrs are of the essence of the English Catholic Church ... their names as English as their blood.

S John Henry Newman saw this truth: in his great encomium on the English Martyrs (in The Second Spring) he even concluded by wondering if Martyrdom might still await the English Catholic clergy. " ... calmly, gracefully, sweetly, joyously, you would mount up and ride forth to the battle, as on the rush of Angels' wings, as your fathers did before you, and gained the prize. You, who day by day offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, you who hold in your hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, you who again and again drain the chalice of the Great Victim; who is to make you fear?"

I do not quite see how poor Welby, in whose veins flows the purest liquor of the Zeitgeist, is an appropriate man to commemorate either S Thomas Becket or Reginald Cardinal Pole.


24 October 2023

Change of mind

Today, I come before you with an unusual confiteor.

I have changed my mind.

I was wrong.

We are nearing the last Sunday in October. Time was, when I would have written something about how this was the 'correct' day for celebrating Christ the King, being the day fixed by Pius XI in 1925 ... and that the Novus Ordo date, the Sunday before Advent, was wrong.

The reason for my change of mind is ... the following.

The two sets of liturgical texts are so different, that I think it is important not to confuse them ... not to imagine, or encourage others to think, that they are the Same Thing but (simply) on Different Dates. Better, for the orthodox to celebrate the orthodox version on the orthodox day fixed by Pius XI ... and to leave Trendiland to celebrate the Kingship of Bugnini on its Bugnini date.

So what's the difference? Mega! The 1925 propers vigorously emphasise the Social Kingship and Rule of our Lord Jesus Christ, something communal, even political. The 1970s texts eliminate that very necessary ... and very Catholic ... teaching. Examples: 

Second half of Collect, 1925: " ... graciously grant; that all the families of the Nations, dispersed by the wounds of sin; may be made subject to his most gracious governance."

Second half of Collect, 1970: " ... graciously grant, that the entire creation, set free from servitude, may serve thy majesty and praise thee together without end."

And here is part of one of the original Office Hymns: " ... The wicked mob [scelesta turba] keep shouting: / We do not wish Christ to rule ..." Thes lines are simply eliminated.

And so on.

There are other problems about the Novus date just before Advent; with it, you lose the ancient and beautiful Sunday Mass with the first of the 'Excita', 'Stir up', collects; we have Calendar problems about S Andrew. We miss out on what Pius XI offered us in terms of the link with All Saints Day: "we proclaim and extol the glory of Him who triumphs in all the Saints and all the Elect".

But I think the graver, because more radical, problems are the ones I print above in bold type.

Pius XI pointed out that the institution of his (October) feast had been on its way ... in fact ... since (or since before) the 1899 Encyclical of Leo XIII Annum sacrum (1899: Pius writes: "... ad hanc diem festi celebritatem instituendam, inde ab exeunte superiore saeculo viam feliciter egregieque munitam esse conspicimus"). Indeed; much of the authentic and highly edifying Magisterium of the first half of the twentieth century is a working-out of what came towards the end of the nineteenth under Pope Leo. 

Pope Pius quotes these words from Pope Leo: "then [that is, with the social rule of Christ] will many ills be cured; then will the law regain its former authority, peace with all its blessings be restored. Men will sheathe their swords and lay down their arms when all freely acknowledge and obey the authority of Christ, and every tongue confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."

23 October 2023

Bishop Challoner

One of my many joys, before my illness, was saying Mass from time to time in the private Recusant Chapel at Milton Manor; 'Gothick' but with genuine medieval glass collected from nearby parish churches before the C of E invented the dear old myth of its own 'continuity'.

Here, transcribed from an old Prayer Card, is a prayer for the Beatification of Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic, who dedicated the chapel on August 15, 1773. A friend of the squire, he was buried in the neighbouring Anglican parish church ... remaining there until the new Westmonasteriensian establishment ... like huntsmen and hounds maddened for a fox ... dug him out and transferred him to their shiny new pseudobyzantine crypt among the sidings of The Victoria Railway Station. 

I don't know the date of this prayer's composition, but it clearly predates the tejjus Ecumenical Correctitudes of the 1960s.

O God, who didst raise up thy servant Richard, a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England: raise him, we beseech thee, to the altars of thy Church; that we who have been taught by his word and example may invoke his help in heaven for the return of this land to the ancient faith and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Challoner was V A when the London mob sacked the Church of the Assumption and S Gregory, Warwick Street, now the central Church of our Ordinariate. How thoroughly satisfying now to have that historic church as part of our inheritance! 

 I wonder if anybody ever gives a thought to the Marquis of Pombal, a decisive man ...

Vivat Rex.

22 October 2023

from an undated prayer card

 PRAYER to ask God for the glorification of Pius IX and to obtain favours (grazie).

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX, who consecrated to thee the Universal Church (Gloria 3 times).

Mary conceived without sin, pray for us that we may return to thee, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who declared thee Immaculate. (Ave  3 times).

Saint Joseph, most pure spouse of Mary the Virgin, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who declared thee Patron of the Universal Church. (Pater 3 times). 

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary Immaculate and our Hope, Saint Joseph hear our prayers and glorify your servant Pius IX, granting us us through his merits and intercession the favour which we ardently desire.

21 October 2023

A bit more Brian Brindley

 "All the gimmicks we see accepted without demur in the most official Anglican circles within the Church of England today -- evening Mass, 'concelebration', Mass facing the people, 'primitive' vestments -- all of them came to us direct from the Roman Church. ... Church people who travel on the continent now find a very different external manifestation of Catholic continuity from that which delighted Maurice Child and Ronald Knox in the days before the Great War -- tabernacles empty, high altars stripped and deserted, statues removed, votive-stands gone, High Mass abandoned, plainsong and polyphony alike cast out in favour of vernacular hymns and trivial melodies; and, everywhere, communion-tables ..."

20 October 2023

"Our" nuns

My last job in the C of E was at S Thomas's iuxta ferriviam in Oxford. It had once had a convent attached to it (closed, sadly, before I took over; Mgr Ronald Knox, while still the Anglican Chaplain of Trinity College in this University, used to come and say Mass in 'our' nuns' chapel when he was not on the Trinity Chapel duty rota ... because, down here in the slums, he was able to celebrate privately in Latin according to the rite of S Pius V).

I somehow came across a prayer card; on the back, "Printed in England for St Thomas' Convent Oxford." On the front in the bottom left hand corner, there is a [printer's?] monogram (V and V inverted and a cross; and 'Printed in England'). And these words:

O JESU rest upon the road, 

O Jesu, shadow by the way!

O Jesu, who dost light the load of tired toilers all the day:

O grateful coolness in the heat,

O fount that never knowest fail!

O pleasant rest for weary feet:

O Lamb of God:

O Holy Grail! 

Among the 'gothick' decoration there is, at the top, a (red) hanging lamp, and, at the bottom, a Chalice and Host.

Can anybody throw any light upon the verses, or the printer?

19 October 2023


(1) The pre-Conciliar Preface which has been most disastrously impacted by the 1960s fetich "NO-PETITIONS" is that for Apostles. 

Before the 'reforms', this Preface petitioned the Almighty: "Te Domine suppliciter exorare". Readers, I hope, willl remember the host of supplicatory clauses I gathered together in my first part of this piece. This preface stands squarely in that ancient tradition. And what it seeks from the Almighty is that he will not desert his flock, but continue to to govern it by the same Apostolic Rulers. 

The post-Conciliar version of this preface does something quite different: something quite opposite. It thanks the Almighty that he does continue so to govern his flock.

That is purest Bergogliaity; the assurance that, as one crazed Bergoglianical fanatic put it recently, "When the Pope thinks, it is God who is thinking."

It is unadulterated Stalinism. 

It is nothing to do with the Catholic Faith; nothing to do with the definition given in 1870 by Vatican I of the Papal Ministry.

The Papacy of Pius XII, with its flabella and the lordly conveying of the Roman Bishop like a demigod on a lofty chair as he blessed his 'subjects' ... that culture, with all its cringe-making exaggerations, did not have a patch on the intellectual tyranny to which we are now subjected.

(2) Other prefaces which have been eliminated because of the NO-PETITIONS rule include those granted to particular Churches, Orders, or Congregations. 

Here is the second half of the Preface granted to the Oratorian Congregations for their Founder S Philip Neri ... it is now, of course, suppressed.

"Wherefore we beseech thy mercy that thou wouldst give us joy in his festivity, train us by the example of his devout life, instruct us by the word of his preaching, and wouldst protect us by the pleasing supplication which he makes to thee."

I wonder when it was granted ... is this (part of) the preface with which Newman, Faber, and their associates would have been familiar?

18 October 2023

Vere dignum et iustum est ... (1)

TOPIC The 'Preface' the opening section of the Eucharistic Prayer (Canon).

QUESTION In the Roman Rite, should the Preface be allowed to contain Petitions, or should it be confined to Praises and Thanksgivings?

STATE OF THE QUESTION In the Vatican revisions of the 1960s, a rigid rule was applied: NO PETITIONS.

I ASK: How soundly is this based?

I SUGGEST: Jungmann (The Mass of the Roman Rite Volume 2, pp115sqq.) assumes that Petition, in the Roman Rite, should be considered non-normative. It seems to me that his discussion is evasive ... ... I nearly wrote: "slippery".

I am mainly concerned with the Roman Rite. I am not one of those who consider that the Roman Rite is only respectable if it is supported by Oriental Rites. But I will point out that the early Egyptian rite called Serapion is not shy about petitioning ('... we beseech thee ... Give us ....  May ...'). The earlier Western evidence of Justin combines "Prayers and Thanksgivings"; but Jungmann relegates to a footnote his dismissal of "[t]he view advocated by Baumstark among others, that a prayer of petition is already to be assumed within the Eucharistia of Justin ...".

In fact, Jungmann has himself to admit that "Petition, too, is included, along with thanksgiving" although he qualifies this by adding "at first tentatively, later even in a relatively developed form". Nevertheless, he will go on to insist that "it is equally evident from the earliest sources that in principle, and aside from certain more recent marginal developments, the keynote of the eucharistia ... has always been thanksgiving." As far as concerns Adoration, or thanksgiving for the Natural Order, he frankly concedes that "the theme ... is particularly infrequent in the Roman liturgy".

When he comes on to the earliest Roman evidence (the Veronensian codex which was then called the Leonianum), Jungmann even admits that we find such "curiosities" as "a tirade against objectionable adversaries or an exhortation to lead a moral life." And he grants that "even in the Leonianum the preface ... not infrequently takes on the features of a petition." He moves on to the Leofric Missal, "which has a special preface for every Mass-formulary. Similarly several sacramentaries from France." Jungmann dates it to "11th century" and says that it "originated in the Rhineland". But the most recent edition of Leofric (2002) suspects it of being the pontifical of an Archbishop of Canterbury, and of containing material transcribed originally from liturgical material brought by S Augustine to Canterbury. It contains phraseology (I select at random) such as supplices exposcimus; pietatem tuam indefessis precibus implorare; suppliciter exorare ut ...; poscentes; supplices exoramus; cuius meritis nequaquam possumus coaequari, eius precibus mereamur adiuvari. These prefaces seem to move into supplication whenever their natural logic suggests it. 

This must put a question mark against the 1960s/1970s assumption that, for the Roman Rite, petitions must always be inherently improper within a preface. 

To be concluded.

17 October 2023

Saint Henry VI?

  ... and, after yesterday's 'Two lytell prayers', here is a prayer given his Imprimatur on January 30th 1926, by Thomas [Henshaw], Bishop of Salford:



O God, Who didst choose Thy servant King Henry to be a pattern of innocence and most patient meekness, a lover of the priesthood and a patron of godly learning; and Who hast, as we confidently hope, restored to him in heaven the crown which he lost on earth; grant we beseech Thee, that for Thy greater glory and the salvation of souls he may be glorified on earth as in heaven. 

Moved by that faith and loyalty towards the Holy See, which he ever showed in the hour when its privileges were most in danger, we humbly beg this favour through the infinite merits of Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God world without end. Amen.

16 October 2023

Two Lytell prayers ...

Having recently visited King Henry VI (although not the large school near Slough) I am moved to share with you ...

Two lytell prayers whiche King Henry the Syxte made:

Domine Jhesu Christe, qui me creasti, redemisti et praeordinasti ad hoc quod sum: tu scis quid de me facere vis; fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam cum misericordia.

Domine Jhesu Christe, qui solus es sapientia; tu scis que michi peccatori expediunt; prout tibi placet et sicut in oculis tue maiestatis videtur, de me ita fiat cum misericordia tua. Amen.

Pater Noster.                          Ave Maria. 


15 October 2023


"The king of France now abandoned the Avignon pope and declared himself neutral. The University of Paris did the same, and besought the two sets of cardinals to come together and work for reunion. Within a few weeks this had happened, and the majority of of the cardinals of both popes met in a common assembly. They summoned a council which met at Pisa ...

"Both popes were cited to Pisa, and when they failed to appear were condemned in their absence for schism, heresy, and perjury, and deposed. Then the cardinals elected the archbishop of Milan ... He took the name of Alexander V ...

"The situation was now, in some respects, worse than ever. There were three popes instead of two, and in the end it was the third pope, the one of the threee who was most certainly not pope, whom practically the whole of Christendom obeyed ...

"Pope Alexander lasted only ten months, and then the Pisan party elected to succeed him Baldassare Cossa, who took the name of John XXIII. He was a man so bad and so utterly unworthy of any ecclesiastical office--an ecclesiastical financier who had the name of having once been a pirate and was now a trader in indulgences--that in the end the emperor Sigismund intervened and set in motion the train of events which at last saved the Church."

14 October 2023


Sometimes writers, even Bishops and Archbishops whom we both respect and love, raise questions which, if followed, might lead to a conclusion that the present de facto occupant of the Roman See lacks legitimacy. This worries me, for reasons that I prefer to approach historically. 

What follows is taken from A Popular History by Mgr Philip Hughes, edition of 1946/7. I am doing this because if I myself composed the story now, it might be suspected that I am crafting the narrative to fit parallels in our present situation.

" ... on April 8, 1378, with all the mob of the city howling around the Vatican, 'Elect an Italian or you die', the sixteen terrified cardinals chose ... the archbishop of Bari ... he took the name of Urban VI. 

"Was Urban VI (1378-1389) validly elected?Almost universally scholars today assert that he was. But there was, in the circumstances of the election, enough of a case to be exploited against its validity should it be to anyone's interest to do so ...

" ... his actions were such that there is something to be said for the theory that his reason had suffered ... Certain it is that his tactless, tyrannous manner speedily alienated the cardinals who elected him ... One of his most loyal supporters was St. Catherine of Siena, and we find her writing to him: 'For the love of Jesus crucified, Holy Father, soften a little the sudden movements of your temper.'

"Slowly the opposition grew, and the cardinals ... began to escape from the city. In June Urban tried to win them back, but the only result was to provoke a declaration that they doubted if the election made had been valid--and this after three months in which they had all repeatedly recognised him, sought and accepted favours from him as pope and proclaimed his as pope in a joint letter to the Christian world.

"In August they announced that he was no pope. They had elected him simply to escape the death that otherwise awaited them ... They proceeded to a new election and--the three Italians not voting--unanimously chose the cardinal Robert of Geneva ... He called himself Clement VII.

"All the cardinals--with one exception--recognised Clement as pope. What was Christendom to do? How was it to decide between the conflicting accounts of the rivals? And how was it to judge on which occasion this same body of cardinals had really, by unanimous vote, elected a pope, in April or in September?" 

To be concluded.

13 October 2023

Saints galore

Here is another itinerary; this particular gentleman swept through London and Kent seeking Intercession for the ailing Prince Arthur.

to OLCrowham (2/6); 

to the Rood of Grace in Kent (1/8);

to S Thomas of Canterbury (5/-) and to OLUndercroft there (5/-);

to S Adrian (1/8);

to S Augustine (1/8);

to OLDover (1/8);

to the Rood of the North Door in Paul's (1/8) and to OLGrace there (1/8);

to S Ignatius (1/8;);

to S Dominic (1/8);

to S Peter of Milan (?) (1/-);

to S Francis (1/8);

to Saint Saviour (2/6);

to OLPew (2/6);

to OLBarking (2/6);

and to OLWillesden (2/6).

12 October 2023

"Prince Edward"

Most people have met an Old Etonian ... an alumnus of a large school near Slough. What they will probably remember from that encounter is being addressed upon an important subject: the importance of the canonisation of the Founder of that school, King Henry VI.

Far more select is the number of those aware of King Henry's only son, Edward, Prince of Wales.

On May 4, 1471, a battle decisive in English dynastic history: at Tewkesbury. It sticks in the memory because the conflict eventually burst into the Abbey Church, where the slaughter was only eventually ended when the Abbot took a Procession the the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar down to where the killing was happening.

Among those who died in those bloodied hours was the last heir of the the Lancastrian family, the seventeen year-old Prince Edward. He was buried, and still is, in that Abbey; the place of his burial is now marked by a Victorian brass tablet.

And there are two pieces of evidence of an incipient cultus in that place, to 'Prince Edward'.

But how could that be, since the family, and its ambitions, had been extinguished?

Remember that, after the Battle of Bosworth, England found itself with another King Henry. He was not descended from Henry VI, but ... if you browse through the Court Poetry of the first two Tudors ... you will find references to the earlier King Henry. Just as you will find heraldic allusions among those who were the Rising Men in the new regime, indicating their proud new allegiance.

Hence the episode I mentioned, a few days ago, when Elizabeth of York, anxious for the life of her son Arthur, sent one of her chaplains on a tour of England, making contributions (of varying degrees of generosity) to a large number of shrines. Among thesewere that of King Henry VI at Windsor, and Prince Edward at Tewkesbury. (In fact, Prince Edward got twice as much as his father.)

The Yorkist regime which was holding King Henry prisoner had no reason to kill him while he had a young, free, and militarily active son. But after the death of Prince Edward ... well, on (perhaps) May 21, Henry mysteriously died.

11 October 2023

Urgent Business for a sick Prince ... and the Dynasty that was never to be ...

Here is an itinerary for a priest called Barton who was sent from the Court of Elizabeth of York in March 1502 to make offerings at shrines all over Middle England for the life of Prince Arthur her son, who, had he lived, would probably have been the first of a whole list of imperially-minded English Kings of that name. I give, in Old Money, the sums (some of them fractions of the Mark) he was to donate at each shrine (OL=Our Lady of):

OLWindsor, and S George at Windsor, and the Holy Cross there (2/6);

King Henry (2/6);

OLEton (1/8);

The Child of Grace at Reading (2/6);

OLCaversham (2/6);

OLCockthorpe (1/8);

Holy Blood of Hailes (1/8);

Prince Edward (5/-);

OLWorcester (5-);

Holy Rood at Northampton (5/-) and OLGrace there (2/6);

OLWalsingham (6/8);

OLSudbury (2/6);

OLWoolpit (1/8);

OLIpswich 3/4);

OLStoke Clare (1/8) ...

"Prince Edward" ... is a subject to which I plan to return!

I'm sure the erudite Dr Cotton has got all this sussed already!

10 October 2023

Almost a Saint ...

When the Luftwaffe bombed Exeter Cathedral (tit-for-tat: the RAF had bombed a nice little medieval University city in Germany ... and the Rhodes Scholars in the German government wouldn't allow Oxford to get the retaliation ... such are the Exeter legends) a discovery was made amidst the rubble: of wax ex voto offerings which had been hidden behind a stone above the tomb of Exeter's learned and holy Bishop Edmund Lacey (it was rather a shrine: his progress towards canonisation was of course halted by the Reformation). Presumably they were hidden away when the Protestant Dean Simon Heynes vandalised the tomb. (He was not a popular dean and his new-fangled religion was as unpopular in the Close as it was in the City.)

I would be interested to know more about how these shrines operated ... I mean, shrines of the uncanonised on their way to possible canonisation. Clearly, offerings were made in the expectations of benefits; for which, upon receipt, appropriate thanks were naturally rendered. For example: at Windsor, when the murdered body of Henry VI lay there in the expectation that it would be translated to the new Lady Chapel at Westminster, was his shrine a busy one? We know that offerings were sent there, and by members of the Royal House.

And what was the physical appearance of these shrines? Bishop Lacey's is still there ... a stone slab with a brass inset. Another nearly-Saint, Prince Edward at Tewkesbury, to whom I plan to return, originally had a stone with a brass inset. And a real Saint ... S Ethelred at Wimborne Minster ... is commemorated in the same way. (I am grateful to Mr N J Rogers, Archivist at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for these two pieces of information.) Brasses, I presume, were the way to do it upon limited resources.

Bishop Lacey of Exeter was an intellectual who was not above putting his head into intellectual hornets' nests. On August 15 1441 he preached to the English Chapter of the of the Dominicans in the Exeter Blackfriars at a time when the Preachers were still far from enthusiastic about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; his action in having his sermon transcribed into his register has no parallel that I know of in Medieval episcopal registers ... (would anyone like to comment on that?).

 Lacey pulled no punches: "So those who, with their rash and reprobate opinion struggle to besmirch her Conception, let them shut their mouths; and those who struggle to put blemishes on her way of life, let them put a sock in it; and those who are unwilling to exalt the outcome of her Assumption, let them get lost and stay lost (perpetuo delitescant)."

But let me tell you his argument for the Assumption. The Philosopher of the Ethics proves that it is necessary for there to be some end to human affairs, namely immortality and eternity. To which our antonomaic Lady is deservedly assumed by the Apostle, Romans 2, 'Glory, honour and peace to the one who does good'.

So you bung Aristotle and S Paul together and invoke the principle of antonomasia, which I trust is still taught in the Fundamental Theology courses in our seminaries, and Bob's your Uncle.

9 October 2023

Saint John Henry Newman, and the dangers of Sugary Smiles

Today is the Solemnity of S John Henry Newman; I offer a word of caution.

When Amoris Laetitia emerged, it was followed by a News Conference compered by the Schoenborn of Vienna. When Diana Montagna asked the very sensible question ... whether this were not a change in doctrine ... the Graf flashed on that ghastly sugary smile which, he presumably thinks, makes him look charming, and told her that it was "Development" and that it was "all in Newman".

We may find ourselves hearing more of this kind of trickery: it needs to be nailed.

S John Henry wrote on The Development of Christian Doctrine while he was still an Anglican. He wanted to satisfy himself that the contemporary Roman Catholic Church really was identical with the Apostolic and 'primitive' Churches ... despite any superficial appearances to the contrary! In the course of writing, any doubts he had were resolved, and he sought admission into the One Fold of the Redeemer. In so doing, he left his essay unfinished. It still is.

Newman did NOT write that work so as to provide future papal regimes with a useful blueprint for changing doctrine.

His message was NOT: "Hey, all you future Heretical Holinesses in the Henceforth, you wanna change dogma? Here's a good wheeze: Just call it "Development"!!"


Liturgical Footnote:

I think a strict interpretation of the 2000 CDF liturgical regulations means that, when a newly canonised Saint is observed in the Old Rite, the Old Rite Communia should be used. But I suspect that most of us, very naturally, use at least the Collect from the propers authorised for S John Henry in the Novus Ordo.

In that Collect, S John Henry is called 'presbyterum'. But this is not in accordance with the conventions of the Usus Authenticus of the Roman Rite. To bring it into line with the customary usages, presbyterum needs to be changed to confessorem tuum..And, for stylistic reasons, the repetition of the adjective tuum in the next clause needs to go.

8 October 2023

Pius VII on 26 August 1814

 On that day, Pius VII issued an indulgenced form of devotion. It is quite long, so I cannot repeat it in full. Here is just a summary.

It begins with five paragraphs. Each of these in turn concludes with:

Laudes et gratiae sint omni momento Sanctissimo ac divinissimo Sacramento. 

Pater, Ave, Gloria.

1 I confess the presence in the Sacrament of True God and True Man, and intend to make satisfaction for the coldness of so many Christian hearts which stand before God's Temples, and even before the Holy Tabernacle, with indifference. In expiation, I offer You the Blood You shed from Your Left Foot.

2 I intend to make satisfaction for ungrateful Christians who, seeing You carried in Viaticum, leave You unaccompanied. In expiation, I offer You the Blood You shed from Your Right Foot.

3 I intend to make satisfaction for the wounds which are daily offered to Your Heart by the profanation of Churches. In expiation, I offer You the Blood You shed from the Wound in Your Left Hand.

4 I intend to make satisfaction to You for so many irreverences, daily offered to You by Your Faithful while they are at Mass. In expiation, I offer You the Blood You shed from the Wound in Your Right Hand.

5 I intend to make satisfaction for the sacrilegious irreverences offered to You by Your Faithful who dare to receive You while the are guilty of Mortal Sin. In expiation, I offer You the very last drops of Blood You shed from the Wound in Your Sacred Side: where I desire to be hidden and to worship You with all the souls who are bound in love towards the Most Holy Sacrament.

The devotion then ends with Tantum ergo; V Panem de caelo; Deus qui nobis.

Benedict XVI wished the cause for the Beatification of Pius VI to be be resumed. Is it surprising?


7 October 2023

Sancta Osytha, ora pro nobis

October 7 is the festival of the Saxon Abbess and Saint, S Osyth. I grew up with her, in a sense, because the Catholic Church in Clacton on Sea is dedicated to Our Lady of Light (a devotion of Breton origin about which I wrote a few months ago) and S Osyth.

Because: only five or six miles away, there was a village called St Osyth (although its original name had been Chich). Osyth was one of those Saxon royal females and foundresses who so enliven the early ecclesiastical history of this island. As a boy, I used to go walking there; in those Essex marshes, one can get a sense of being miles from anywhere amid the wind and the water. And so, a little while ago, before writing this piece, I brought up on the computer a decade-or-so old episode of a TV Archaeology programme called Time Team, because I recalled that they made a major archaeological onslaught on the area and I thought I had better familiarise myself ... er ...

Oh dear.

They found pretty well nothing from the first millennium.

The area concerned is not a small one. And, in our Essex marshes, centres of population can move around. And I think the diggers were not encouraged to excavate within the precincts of what was was once a second millennium major religious House. 

So I resisted the 'enlightenment' temptation to wonder if those monks had invented S Osyth so as to have a profitable shrine.

In Britain and Ireland, monastic sites were often within easy reach of the sea. There are several Roman villas near St Osyth marked on the map; the site was within easy reach of the Colonia Claudia Victricensis (my ancestral town)

Indeed, in S Osyth's day, a skilled waterman had only to get less than ten miles across the estuaries of the Colne and the Blackwater from her settlement to reach the neighbouring monastery founded by S Chad in the ruins of the old 'Saxon Shore' fort of Othona.

Presumably, such coastal religious communities waited avidly, as spring approached, for the Navigation Season to open, so as to replenish their supplies ... not least ... of wine and oil. I think it was Professor Charles Thomas who once reconstructed from shards the entire itinerary of a 'dark age' cargo boat from the East Mediterranean round the South West coasts of this archipelago.

During the winter months, just as First Millennium Irish middens reveal that the religious there binged on limpets, perhaps S Osyth and her sisters luxuriated on Mersea oysters without even needing to order them from Fortnum's.

Perhaps they ate those oysters off samphire ...

 ... off samphire richly doused in melted Essex butter ...

Yum Yum ... happy shuckers ....

... simple autochthonous food ... ...

6 October 2023

Hispanification rules OK

Time was, when 'Anglican Catholics' believed (very sensibly) that the the smartest way of showing that the they were 'real' Catholics  ... just like the papist ones across the water ... was by making their churches look as if they had evolved, organically, over the centuries, within a thoroughly popish culture. As it might be ... a Hispanic culture ...

The last Anglican church I went to as a Visiting Preacher before we took Pope Benedict's fantastic and generous offer was S Mary's, Bourne Street. Here is an anecdote about that church, preserved by the late Canon Brian Brindley.

"Fr Whitby, wishing to give the figure of the Crucified over the High Altar a more attenuated and 'Spanish' appearance, called in a woodcarver at dead of night, who worked through the hours of darkness to remove the unwanted adiposity, so that all might be completed by the hour of Mass the next day, that the faithful might not be disturbed."

Yes ... you are quite right ... this anecdote must date from well before the 1960s.

I still remember the meal with which they rewarded me after my Humble Homily. Members of that admirable group ... I believe they are sometimes to be found in St James's, Spanish Place ... now constitute the St Marylebone Ordinariate Group.

Vivat! Vivat!

5 October 2023

Omnes Sancti Cancellarii, orate pro nobis.

 October 5, on current local calendars, is the Feast of S Thomas de Cantiloupe (Ob 1218, later Bishop of Hereford) sometime Chancellor of this University (previously, until S Therese appeared upon the scene, it was two days earlier). Other sainted Chancellors have been S Richard (Ob 1197, later Bishop of Chichester); and S Edmund Rich, (Ob 1240; later Archbishop of Canterbury) Patron of the geographical diocese in which I reside. During my current health crisis, I seek their ... and your ... prayers.

Perhaps there will be those of the Anglican Patrimony who would like me to add blessed William Laud to this list.

I often think of them, as I visit the broad and generous highway along which they must so often have made their way. Was there, I wonder, a 'Chancellor's Barge' to convey them? Did they pause for hospitality in the great monastic house at Dorchester (built, surely, on the site of a late Roman martyrium just outside the walls of the Roman municipium)? Were they delayed at Abendon by the mighty abbey of which not a stone rests now upon a stone?

This busy thoroughfare ... should we call it the R1? ... saw busy times during the years amusingly called 'the Reformation'. When Magdalen College purchased that panelling from the suppressed Abbey at Reading, the Tudor equivalents of our modern juggernauts will have transported it. That undamaged statue of the Assumpta discovered at Sandford ... was it craftily conveyed South from Oxford or North from Abendon? -- I have, by the way, a theory about the strange receptacle between our Lady's feet: as Erasmus described at Walsingham, did it originally hold a toadstone

Fr Bertram recounted a story about a quarter of one of our Catholic Martyrs being discovered entangled in the mill-wheel at Sandford.

As you collect your latest degree ... or enjoy Mr Orator's set pieces in the Sheldonian Theatre at Encaenia ... spare a glance above your head. As in any properly appointed ancient theatre, you will see the ropes of the velarium which support the canvases which protect your head from Oxford's insupportably Mediterranean sun ... 

 ... except, of course, that the appearance is trompe l'oeil. So are the allegorical figures of Religion, the Arts, and Science triumphing over some pretty unStuart vices. Robert Streeter painted it in ... I think ... London, and it was transported up the Thames.

I wonder where they unloaded it, in those days before one of Ruskin's admirers had built Meadow Building. Did the old Priory have a Watergate, and a quay, on the precise spot where later Anthony Blanche deployed his microphone and Aloysius ate the plovers' eggs?

About fifteen years ago, when the flooding Thames came right up to the Meadow Building Entrance, the reflections in the water did ... if you didn't look too carefully ... resemble La Serenissima ...

4 October 2023

Calvinus Redivivus

Yearly, I get sent The Record of Hertford College. I often have a quick look through, although the college is not really, nowadays, quite my Cup of Tea. (I rather wish that, sixty five years ago, I had written "J W Hunwicke Aulae Cervinae" rather than "Hertford College" inside my own books.)

In the recent edition, I found a piece by a Christopher Tyerman about the Library. Frustratingly, it begins with a photograph of the Benefactors' Book ... but taken at a curious slant so that one cannot actually read it. I can, however, discern the words "Calvini Institutiones".


A few pages further on, there is this in Tyerman's text: "A succession of able and distinguished scholars and tutors entrenched the hall's reputation as one of the leading puritan houses in the university. ... After the headwinds of the hostile environment to Calvinist thought and practices engineered by the busy-body Chancellorship of Archbishop Laud in the 1630s, and the near collapse of numbers and expulsion of Wilkinson and his tutors during the Royalist occupation of Oxford in 1645-6, the Parliamentary triumph of 1646 restored the Calvinist regime ...". This looks to me ... well, strangely sympathetic to Calvinism.

I wonder why we need to have this aged heresy thrust into our faces. The current Principal has a toothy smile which doesn't look Calvinist. Somehow, I doubt whether the current Fellowship are all fanatical Genevans. And when you hear the youff gossipping in the street, the burden of their exchanges rarely seems to be about the necessity of Predestination, single, double, or triple.

And among the the Chapel Preachers engagaged by the Chaplain (she is one of the Monstrous Regiment of Women) is a 'Transgender Outreach Worker'. 

I wonder where that comes in the Institutiones.

3 October 2023

More Naughtiness

 And consider this next bit of hymn ... it was composed, I think, for the Second Sunday in October, Feast of the Maternity of the Theotokos ... and it actually ascribes locational preference to the Almighty:

"Caelo Redemptor praetulit/ Felicis alvum Virginis ... "

Would Dom Anselmo Lentini, or his grim Bugninioid Masters, ever have allowed that to pass? But ...

... just in case erudite readers are wondering: this 'Victorian' proper was indeed reactivated (almost unchanged) by Pius XI in the the 1930s, not least so as to take a hefty and very well-deserved swipe at the Lambeth Conference. I am not sure that its force might not also apply to some aspects of the current Bergoglianicistical complex of errors. History shows that some of these nastinesses sometimes come round a second time.

And, before we forget entirely about Hymn Writers and Translators: I wonder how Lentini ... and also Caswall and Neale ... might have translated into a vernacular these words from the self-same hymn:

" ... ligustra et alba lilia;/ Candor sed horum vincitur/ candore casti pectoris ..."

2 October 2023


 Those who have experienced the 'brilliant firework display' (Lancelyn Green); 'the puns, witty, rhymes, antitheses, allusions, alliterations, homophones and other tropes ... zest ... far fetched similes ... metaphors ...' , of the Akathist Hymn may sometimes have wondered why Western Liturgy is incapable, just occasionally, of letting its hair down a bit. 

Some of those baroque hymnographers who served the dear old Sacred Congregation of Rites in the high Counter-Reformation period did indeed, happily, sometimes stray in a naughty direcction, although never as far as carefree Byzantines. 

Take the hymn the hymnographi composed for the Third Sunday in October, Feast of the Purity of our Blessed Lady. I includes the line Intacta Mater Numinis.

Numen is an intriguing word. The post-Conciliar revisers modified it to Deique mater innuba on the grounds that Numen  smells a bit of Mythology. You might have thought that Dei did the same. But I get the point: Mater Dei  had been going around for centuries, so, you could argue, it had setttled down into its accepted usages.

But one of the convictions of our culture is that it might be a good idea sometimes ... occasionally ... to use a startlingly unusual word or turn of phrase, in order to stimulate thought. Numen is vaguer; less easy to pin down; and less easy to dismiss as being merely a word we've been thoughtlessly hitching on to descriptions of the Theotokos for a couple of millennia (how often do we pause when praying the second half of the Hail Mary?).

Classicist readers might be intrigued to chase after Numen in the Augustan poets. They might, then.  care to sober down and remember that Leo XIII himself was not too fussy to incorporate this line into a hymn of his own.

1 October 2023

Two lungs, one breath.

 Any fule doe kno that  ...  on 7 October 1571, thousands of slaves were liberated from the Turkish War Galleys when Don John of Austria defeated the forces of Islam (reread Chesterton!).  And it is is no secret that S Pius V perpetuated the memory of this event by an annual commemoration of our Lady of Victory. His successor, Gregory XIII, changed the title of that Feast to our Lady of the Rosary,  ordering it to be kept on the First Sunday of October in those churches possessing a Rosary Altar. 

So matters remained until Innocent XI fixed this feast on the Universal Roman Calendar ... where it stayed throughout the nineteenth century. This is what all those Victorian clergy were familiar with ... and today recurs as that First Sunday in October!

Mary as Protectress; Mary as the one who stretches her protection over us! But ... especially this year ... that is not the the only consideration which may bring joy to my heart and to yours. Because (especially among Slav Christians) today, October 1, is also Pokrov ... in Greek, Skepe. The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. This devotion, I believe, owes its origins to the Mandora, or Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, which I think was originally kept in the Blachernae Basilica in Constantinople ... what an immense Reliquary City that must have been!!

Readers will recall the pleasure it gives me when I discover East and West breathing in harmony ... which is what we do find here. The Iconography of the West is as keen as anybody to show the Mother of God extending her Veil of Protection over her devoted clients; readers who are fortunate enough to spend their days in and out of Exeter Cathedral ... one of the Greatest Churches of Europe's Western fringe ... will recall the Chantry Chapel of Mr Precentor Sylke (d 1508), in the North Transept, which has a painting of this theme on one of its walls; and other admirers of the mighty cosmopolitan Burgundian Bishop of Exeter ... Prince Bishops don't come much Princier than John Grandisson in the 1320s ... will not need me to tell them that the Mater Misericordiae (Occidentalese for Pokrov) was his Patroness.

I wonder how many centuries it will be before the post-Christians of both East and West again find themselves huddling for protection beneath the Protecting Veil of the Mother of our Most Holy Redeemer.